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Philanthropy A to Z

J – Jazz, Jams & Jokes: Supporting Local Music Project

Text by Sarah Tietje-Mietz

For musicians, the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic has served an especially acute blow, with live shows cancelled and music festivals on hold indefinitely. MVYRADIO, Martha’s Vineyard’s go-to station for its eclectic mix of music, believed the needs of musicians, cultural nonprofits and event-starved islanders could be met—it would just take a little innovation and some great collaboration. 

“The radio station’s role has always been, ‘How can we connect organizations?’” says MVYRADIO Executive and Program Director PJ Finn. “How can we use our platform to help other nonprofits do what they need to do, or help the community get the message out, or take an action that needs to be taken?”

From these questions, a solution formed in the minds of MVYRADIO’s Community Outreach Director Laurel Redington and local musician Rose Guerin. Their brainstorm turned into a whirlwind as partnerships began forming with the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival (MVFF), the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard, Featherstone Center for the Arts and the Martha’s Vineyard Museum (MVM), and the Supporting Local Music Project was born. 

The Vineyard’s robust music scene usually hits peak volume in the summer, so the Supporting Local Music Project’s mission was to bring back both the platforms and income that musicians were missing out on. Support for the project came from the community-focused bank, Cape Cod 5, and the Permanent Endowment for Martha’s Vineyard. 

The MVFF had set the outdoor event ball rolling with a retro drive-in experience for attendees, perfect for the social distancing required by the state. Adding live music to these already popular events was an intuitive next step. Musicians like the Dock Dance Band—who both YMCA MV Membership Coordinator Lindsay Webster and Guerin feel embody the spirit of summer on Martha’s Vineyard—would open some movie events, followed by a film projected on the exterior of the ice arena.

The campuses of Featherstone and MVM also served as idyllic backdrops for performances, which brought life, and a revenue lifeline, back to these organizations. Thanks to the music mingling with stories and laughter in the summer breeze, a sense of normalcy was returned, something both institutions say was well-needed after months of disruption.

The Venmo app took the place of hats and guitar cases for tipping the artists, but it was more than just money that this project provided; it brought the magic of live music back to the Vineyard. “Being a local musician myself, I can tell you that for almost every single performer, it has been such a relief to be back on stage,” says Guerin. “Music is more than just a job for us, it’s a calling.”

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